Yasmin after fire
Caution tape blocked off part of the 19th and Valencia streets intersection while firefighters cleared debris from Yasmin restaurant after a fire in the building's basement on Jan. 13. Photo by Anlan Cheney.

A fire in the basement of a three-story mixed-use building at 799 Valencia St. on the north east corner of 19th and Valencia streets was contained to the basement early Thursday, Jan. 13. The floor level of the building houses Yasmin, a Middle Eastern restaurant, and the upper two stories are residential. The San Francisco Fire Department reported no victims or displacements and that Red Cross services were not required. 

The San Francisco Fire Department was alerted at 4:17 a.m. and had contained the fire by 4:36 a.m. 

Eiad Eltawil, who has owned Yasmin for three years, was alerted to the incident by a neighbor of his business, and he drove to the site from Daly City early Thursday morning.

“The firefighters were really quick,” he said, adding that the damage in his restaurant was due to water. “Not huge issues, a water pipe broke.”

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Neighbors reported having waited on the street for two hours in pajamas while firefighters responded to the fire as well as ongoing difficulty with the smoke. One resident and her roommates stayed with friends Thursday night, and they expected smoke remediation services from their landlord over the weekend.

“There was tons of smoke that came up in the apartments,” said another resident living in the building. The smoke had been so thick at first, she said, it was difficult to see the floor while exiting the building.

She also said that she heard two men arguing after an explosion at 4 a.m. “There’s a bigger story to how this fire started,” she said, adding at least one was interviewed by the police as well as some residents.

The San Francisco Fire Department said the source of the fire is under investigation, but they consider it intentional. The San Francisco Police Department opened a burglary investigation for the site, but they had not responded to Mission Local requests for comment by the end of the day.

Eltawil said he thought the source may have been a gas leak, and that none of his restaurant’s neighbors living above were impacted.

Eltawil was waiting on 19th Street Thursday morning for news of his business with his wife, Sahar Milani, who founded and owns Rossi Mission SF art gallery, two buildings to the north on Valencia Street. Eltawil’s restaurant replaced Ali Baba’s Cave, which his uncle owned for more than 30 years.

Milani’s gallery hosted an art show opening Friday. “It’s bad timing,” Eltawil said, noting he had never been through the process of addressing damage from a fire. He thinks it will be at least two weeks before Yasmin is running again.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday, firefighters were carrying wet debris and items from inside Yasmin.

Caution tape had been placed across the 19th and Valencia intersection from its northwest to southeast corners, and San Francisco Police Department officers diverted pedestrians and bicyclists around the tape. Caution tape also blocked the section of 19th Street between Valencia and Lexington.

If you have information regarding this investigation, call the San Francisco Police Department Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444, or send a text to TIP411.

Crime is trauma, and the county offers different services, which can be found here. Victims of violent crime can also contact the Trauma Recovery Center at UCSF.

The SFPD’s data on crime can be found here.

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"Annie" is originally from Nebraska, where she found her calling to journalism as editor of her high school newsletter. Before returning to the field, she studied peace and political science in the Balkans, taught elementary and middle school, and worked as an epidemiologist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow her on Twitter @anlancheney.

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9 Comments

  1. I am a tenant in one of the buildings that had to be evacuated due to this explosion. Yasmin and Rossi are terrible neighbors, and we’ve had issues with both businesses since day one. I love that the owner handed Mission Local a BS line about a water line breaking while the cause of the fire is under investigation.

    People in our building thought it was an earthquake, and the back door was blown off its hinges into the alleyway. I’m curious to see what the investigation yields.

  2. That is completely untrue that is residents were not impacted, there was fighting outside the restaraubt before this, screaming, broken glass! Smoke from the fire rose up into our apartments, we could hardly see to let the firefighters in. The firefighters had to throw things around the apartment to investigate where the fire was coming from. All of us residents from Valencia & 19th wee outside fmfrkm 4:20 an until 6:30 am. The notion that we were not affected is completely false!

    1. Glad someone else said it. We weren’t even as close as some units (yours, for instance), and the front rooms our apartment reeked of a weird chemical smoke. We were also allowed back in earlier than you but it was still well over an hour.

      1. Thank you! The fact that they did not consult with any residents who were affected by this is complete BS! We are still inhaling smoke—we have broken belongings—we are shipment up—we live here—this is crazy! Why was the back door blown to pieces—it is under investigation…why did they speak for us without checking in if we were ok!?

        1. I came back after running some errands today and was shocked at how much our apartment still smelled like chemical smoke. Smells like a campfire someone started using paint thinner.

          I’ve wrote a complaint to Cournale, the rental company. Mission Local: may I suggest you reach out to them or any of the people who actually live there?

          1. What is the address of cournale?
            And phone number? They are the management/ rental company that leases to Yasmin ? As a neighbor in the area, I’ve had horrible complaints about the loud music Yasmin plays, disrupting the neighborhood. I would like to call it to the attention of cournale. Yasmin is a terrible rude business, not at all neighborly, kind or considerate. Evil.

  3. I second that comment… Yasmin are terrible neighbors and don’t like to listen to feedback from neighbors or customers.

    I hope they find out the truth of what really happened here. Neighbors deserve better from this place.

    1. Are you a tenant renting from Cournale? I’m encouraging anyone who is to reach out to them about this. I’ve had to contact them several times for issues like the back alleyway being flooded (for over a day) because of these businesses, and I know the wine bar has had a lot of conflict with them as well.

      You’re right: we all deserve better.

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